Witness to War: Tuesday May 28, 1918

Private Raymond Duval, MM, was a soldier of the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment) CEF who served overseas during the last two years of the First World War. He participated in some of the fiercest fighting seen by Canadians during the war and was decorated for bravery at Passchendaele. Determined to preserve his memories of the First World War, he maintained a daily record of his experiences. Here is what he wrote precisely 100 years ago today:

Tuesday May 28, 1918: Nothing doing today started no 101 to my little girlie today. 17” shells landing here – no bombs.

Author’s note in 1954: [At Etaples], the unscrambling of men from hundreds of units in this large camp (at times, 1,000,000) evidently took some doing, as we stayed for several days without getting a call of any time after reporting. This stay continued with odd picket duty of a most superficial kind for a few days. Eventually, my pal and I were located [near] the orderly room, and we packed and left for the battle area.

            On our way up, we were marched very hard, a forced march which just about flattened us. We eventually arrived at Ecoivres. My feet were in pretty bad shape after the march. Quite heavy shelling was experienced at this time. For quite a time here, we were sent on working parties. As always, it meant night work, so that sleeping was rather poor in the daytime in poor billets with a continual movement of men. It should be mentioned that while here, Canon Scott, that much loved Padre, visited our billet and had a service in our big building one Sunday morning. Mail finally caught up with us, and letters from home were really appreciated. This was a great help to the morale.

            We stayed at Ecroivres until May 3, 1918, and on first leg came to Aubigny (not a long march). Our AA brought down a couple of enemy planes while we were here. At Aubigny, we entrained and came to Aubin St Vaast, and finally came to Laison and billeted in [a] farmhouse. Here, while trying to help a chap from the West (10th Battalion) with some cooking, which he wanted the woman of the farm to do, my good motives were misunderstood, and as I was sitting on a door step with a book, he swung at me with a wicked blow, which put me out,  I woke up with the farmer’s daughter bathing my head with a wet towel. This man was later arrested, but then released. It was later learned that he was on open arrest for having threatened an officer.

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The RMR Foundation thanks Natalie Dyck for generously sharing her publication of “The Diary and Memoir of Private Raymond Duval” in order for us to be able to share his story with you 100 years on. You can learn more about Private Duval here.

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